From the four entrances to the park, nature trails and 4WD tracks cut through the forest. There are bird trails at Kararacha Pools and Spinetail Way, located 16km south of the main entrance, accessed via the Kararacha entrance. From the Mida entrance, a trail leads to the Whistling Duck Pools, a favourite gathering place of whistling ducks, open-billed storks and grebes. A short trail leads north from the main entrance to the Treehouse, an excellent vantage point for spotting elephants who come to drink from a nearby lake; you may also spot them along the 4WD Elephant Track.
On the Trail of the Elephant-Shrew
'The most interesting thing about the golden-rumped elephant shrew,' says our guide, pausing for effect as we push back lianas inside the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, 'is its forgetfulness.' We're surprised. We thought perhaps it would be its shiny golden bum, its elephantine trunk, or the fact that the male lives in mixed-sex couples but frequents other females on the side.
But no. 'Here in the forest, the shrew's forgetfulness has saved its life. It's the reason it continues to thrive here,' he says. 'People say that if they catch and kill an elephant shrew, they will lose their memory, too. So nobody touches them.'
We walk past tall tamarind trees (an accidental import from India), medicinal plants and brilliant blue-and-orange African tiger moths. We spot flying handkerchief butterflies and tiny duikers, prehistoric zamia plants and parasitic trees that have squeezed all life from their reluctant hosts. We see gigantic termite mounds and deadly orange fungus. But still no golden-rumped elephant shrews.
And then, a red-capped robin flutters into view. 'Aha,' whispers our guide, explaining that this small bird has a symbiotic relationship with the shrew, feeding on the insects that escape its nozzle and, in turn, alerting the rodent to predators. 'A shrew must be nearby…' And then we see it, scooting across the forest floor, its glorious golden rump reflecting the afternoon sun.